Car and Driver advertisement mystery
Volume 48 Issue 15
Aug 12, 2023
Tracking history on old Ferraris is not easy. This ad from Car and Driver started a discovery of a previously unknown owner and history.
Like many of my articles it started with a mystery. I ran across a classified ad in the June 1964, Car and Driver, Market Place listing.
It was here that Mr. Jim Hall advertised a Ferrari 1958, 4.9 dual ignition, 12-cylinder, right-hand-drive, competition roadster in A-1 condition.
His description included the comment that it was ready for competition on long courses. In addition, he included the phrase intended to excite someone who might be looking for a competitive sports racing car. “A real screamer.”
All this could be had for the expensive price of $5,000. The price of this six-year-old race car was still nearly twice the price of a new car purchased off the showroom floor.
In comparison, a new Corvair Monza could be had for $2,335, or an Oldsmobile Jetstar 88 for $3,035. The average cost of a home in 1964 was about $20,000.
While today, the price tag of this used race car seems cheap, it was not for its time.
With no further information to go on, curiosity asked “What is the serial number of this car?”
How hard could it be? Hall raced several Ferraris, this clearly had to be one of those.
The Chronology database contains dates and races, who drove and where they placed. This data is collected from many sources and is kept up to date with the latest Formula One placements and 24 Hours of Le Mans winner.
From the first time a Ferrari arrived at a track to today, organizing and tracking this data is a continuous work in progress. Even when all is known about a race, photo evidence appears to dispute the accepted serial number of a Ferrari at a particular event. History is fascinating and it helps to keep an open mind.
Chronology records several Ferraris driven by a Jim Hall. There are actually two Jim Halls. One is the famous engineer and builder of the Chaparral from Midland, Texas.
The other was a foreign car dealer from Houston. To keep them straight many have labeled the Houston, Texas, one “Old” Jim Hall.
The Car and Driver ad listed Houston, so it must be “Old” Jim Hall. First mystery solved.
Next is the 4.9 statement. In 1955 Ferrari expanded the 375 America engine to 4,962 cc and created the 410 Superamerica.
In one of Ferrari’s rare turn of events the new engine designed for an exclusive street car would be developed into a very potent race engine.
Tony Parravano wanted the largest, fastest, and most powerful race car Ferrari could produce. The 410 engine was modified, and the first 410 Sport was born.
A further three cars were made, three spyders and a Berlinetta were completed in total. Built to compete in the cancelled 1955 Mexican Carrera Panamericana these cars carried the serial numbers 0592 CM, 0594 CM, 0596 CM and 0598 CM.
The next clue is the “dual ignition”. Most V-12 Ferraris have two distributors. Each distributor controls one bank of cylinders. There are twelve spark plugs, six on each side controlled by each distributor.
While this could be interpreted as ‘dual ignition’, an experienced racer such as Jim Hall would have not described a ‘normal’ ignition system as ‘dual’. Dual ignition systems commonly have two spark plugs per cylinder.
While one spark plug can ignite the fuel/air mixture in a cylinder there is a level of inefficiency in burning all the fuel to power the piston downward.
Adding another spark plug into the cylinder accomplishes several problems at once. With the extra spark plug the fuel/air mixture can be initially fired from two independent points within the cylinder. This can provide more complete burning of the mixture thereby providing more power.
An additional benefit is the redundancy provided by two completely independent ignition systems. If one were to fail the other is still providing spark to the mixture.
Aircraft engines have almost always had this type of dual ignition for exactly this reason. It’s all about reliability, and we know Ferrari was all about finishing the race.
Sleuthing begins. How many Ferraris had dual ignition? Some quick investigation through our vast library yields much info on early Ferrari engines.
The first twin-plug was a V-12, 375F1 engine in 1951. The next V-12 were the cars made for Indianapolis and they also had a 375 engine.
While Ferrari was experimenting with the V-12, the four-cylinder cars were being refined with twin-plug heads. The Formula One and Two engines along with the 500 Mondial and 750 Monza all had two spark plugs per cylinder.
But those were four-cylinder engines and clearly not the subject of our investigation. Ferrari made an inline six-cylinder in the 118 and 121 LM cars that had twin-plugs in 1955. Again, these are outside our range of narrowing down the Jim Hall mystery car.
In 1955 we find the first use of dual ignition in a V-12 sports car with the 410 Sport. This V-12 was a 4.9-liter with a single overhead camshaft. This leads us back to the 410 Sport as being a likely candidate.
The 410 Sport was a precursor to the 290 MM which would become even more potent. The 290 MM would have four camshafts, dual ignition and six carburetors.
With even further development this same layout would become the 315 Sport, 335 Sport and culminate with the 412 MI.
None of the cars after the 410 Sport even come close to the 4.9-liter displacement. The 290 MM was a 3.5-liter, 315 Sport a 3.8-liter, 335 Sport a 4-liter and the 412 MI used the same engine as the 335 S.
Our choice comes down to the four 410 Sport cars.
The first two, 410 Sport S/N 0592 CM and S/N 0594 CM, appeared to follow conventional Ferrari practice with single overhead cams (2-cam) and single spark plug per cylinder. Knowing the ad claimed dual-ignition we can eliminate these two.
The second two cars, S/N 0596 CM and S/N 0598 CM, were more exotic with dual spark plug heads and four distributors. One of these cars must be our candidate.
Serial number 0596 CM shows in the database as being delivered new to Sweden. Raced there and then sold in America to A. D. Logan. Advertised in April 1960 by Bruce Danielson. Then sold to England.
Serial number 0598 CM went to John Edgar and was raced extensively by drivers Carroll Shelby, Phil Hill and Ritchie Ginther. Edgar sold it back to Chinetti in 1960 and there it sat until at least 1981 whereupon it was sold.
It would appear neither car could be the one Jim Hall owned. In addition, the former owner Bruce Danielson appears in the database as owning both cars at one point.
Danielson advertised S/N 0598 CM in the April 1960 Road & Track with the serial number. This bit of false information would create trouble many years later.
There is no doubt that S/N 0598 CM could not be the car Jim Hall owned. The lineage was too clear for this car being new to John Edgar and then to Chinetti and sitting for many years in the back of Chinetti’s garage.
So, is the Jim Hall car S/N 0596 CM? There is nothing in the database that could confirm this fact. Reading every article on 0596 CM did nothing to discover where this car might have been located in 1964.
The investigation continues… the internet knows all, well not always, but with the right search, information can be gleaned. I found a web discussion group about Jim Hall in Houston, Texas. Most of the conversation was about more mundane racing activities.
Jim Hall drove his first race at age 21 on a dirt track in Houston in July 1928. It went on to other cars and drivers but then there was this post. “One of his favorites was a Ferrari 410S.”
The post was so old none of the photos would show, but at the end was one showing the car on a track complete with bumper. One of the posts described how Hall would drive the 410S on the street.
One can only imagine what it must have been like to have one of these beasts as a daily driver!
Another post described how Hall came to own the car. He purchased it from Bruce Danielson. Probably from the Road & Track ad in April 1960. Hall offered the car in May 1964.
At this point the known history picks up with the next owner, Phillipp Dowell, who may have used the car in America before taking it to England in the mid-sixties.
Few people in the world were recording history of old Ferraris in the 1960s. Even Gerald Roush did not start to record data until the 1970s. A few dinosaurs like Hilary Raab, Stan Nowak and Richard Merritt did their best to gather and record owners and races.
The Ferrari cars were few, the history mainly word-of-mouth, and notes scribbled on paper were difficult to organize. It’s a miracle we have as much information available as we do.
New information comes to light and often creates new questions. Sometimes the quest adds to the history. This is what we do.
Gather as much as we can, sort through the noise, attempt to organize it into logical files and repeat until it cannot be challenged.